United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
PATRICIA A. DIAZ, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. Rodovich United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the court on petition for judicial review of
the decision of the Commissioner filed by the plaintiff,
Patricia A. Diaz, on July 24, 2017. For the following
reasons, the decision of the Commissioner is
plaintiff, Patricia A. Diaz, filed applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security
Income on June 23, 2009, alleging a disability onset date of
June 1, 2005. (Tr. 1535). The Disability Determination Bureau
denied Diaz's applications initially, upon
reconsideration, and in an unfavorable hearing decision dated
February 16, 2011. (Tr. 1535). Diaz requested review from the
Appeals Council, which was denied on October 17, 2011. (Tr.
1535). On appeal, the United States District Court remanded
the Commissioner's final decision for further proceedings
on September 30, 2013. (Tr. 822-845).
second hearing was held, and the Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ) again issued an unfavorable decision on February 27,
2015. (Tr. 655-675). Diaz filed a second appeal in the United
States District Court that was remanded on a joint motion on
January 8, 2016. (Tr. 1706-1707). A third hearing was held
before ALJ Romona Scales on February 8, 2017, and the ALJ
again issued an unfavorable decision on April 4, 2017. (Tr.
1536). Diaz appeared and testified at the hearing, as well as
Medical Expert (ME) Louis A. Fuchs, M.D., and Vocational
Expert (VE) Richard T. Fisher. (Tr. 1536).
meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security
Act through December 31, 2020. (Tr. 1538). On April 4, 2017,
the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision and made findings as
to each of the steps in the five-step sequential analysis.
(Tr. 1535-1551). At step one of the five-step sequential
analysis for determining whether an individual is disabled,
the ALJ found that Diaz had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since June 1, 2005, the alleged onset date.
(Tr. 1538). The ALJ acknowledged that Diaz engaged in work
after her alleged onset date, including providing after
school child care at her home since 2007. (Tr. 1538).
However, the work activity did not rise to substantial
gainful activity. (Tr. 1538). Yet, the ALJ noted that
Diaz's earnings raised the issue of total disability.
(Tr. 1538). The ALJ found that while the earnings did not
rise to substantially gainful activity, her work activity had
been consistent since the alleged onset date, including her
monthly earnings in 2010, 2011, and 2012 coming within
$111-$121 of what was indicative of substantial gainful
activity per month. (Tr. 1539).
two, the ALJ determined that Diaz had the following severe
impairments: multilevel degenerative disc disease of the
lumbar and cervical spine, mild Sjogren's syndrome, and
pelvic floor dysfunction/out dysfunction constipation. (Tr.
1539). The ALJ noted that Diaz had numerous other
impairments. (Tr. 1539). However, those impairments did not
either meet the durational requirement or were not medically
determinable. (Tr. 1539).
found that Diaz's hypertension was non-severe because it
generally was well controlled with medication and it did not
cause more than minimal functional limitations. (Tr. 1539).
Also, Diaz's uterine bleeding was neither severe nor did
it meet the durational requirements. (Tr. 1540). The ALJ
indicated that the record was devoid of evidence that
Diaz's right carpal tunnel syndrome caused more than
minimal functional limitations. (Tr. 1540). Finally, the ALJ
found that the record as a whole did not support a finding of
fibromyalgia as a medically determinable impairment. (Tr.
noted that record did not contain treatment by a mental
health professional or diagnosis from a mental health
professional, participation in therapy, or prescribed
medication. (Tr. 15420. However, Diaz testified that she
experienced depression. (Tr. 1542). The ALJ indicated that
pursuant to the most recent Order of Remand, the ALJ sent
Diaz to a consultative psychological evaluation with Craig A.
Nordstrom, Psy.D. on November 8, 2016. (Tr. 1542).
the examination, Diaz was prescribed medication for anxiety
in January of 2017. (Tr. 1542). Diaz indicated that the
examination caused an increase in her anxiety because it
brought up old memories and feelings. (Tr. 1542). The ALJ
noted that Diaz had testified that she did not have
significant issues with anxiety prior to the examination.
(Tr. 1542). Specifically, she reported that prior to January
of 2017 she had 2-3 panic attacks per month, while after the
examination and since starting the medication she experienced
3-4 panic attacks per day. (Tr. 1542). The ALJ found that it
was notable that Diaz had not sought any treatment for
psychological or psychiatric symptoms, which she deemed were
severe enough to limit her functioning. (Tr. 1542). The ALJ
also noted that Diaz had not sought emergency care or
treatment. (Tr. 1542).
found that Diaz's medically determinable mental
impairments of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder,
obsessive compulsive disorder, and depression, considered
singly and in combination, did not cause more than minimal
limitation in her ability to perform basic mental work
activities and therefore were not severe. (Tr. 1542). The ALJ
considered the paragraph B criteria for mental impairments,
which included four areas of mental functioning:
Understanding, remembering, or applying information;
interacting with others; concentrating, persisting or
maintaining pace; and adapting or managing oneself.
determined that Diaz had a mild limitation in understanding,
remembering, or applying information. (Tr. 1543). Next, the
ALJ found that Diaz had a mild limitation in interacting with
others. (Tr. 1543). Dr. Nordstrom opined that Diaz had a mild
limitation in the ability to interact appropriately with the
public, supervisors, coworkers, and usual work situations and
changes in a routine work setting. (Tr. 1543). Also, the ALJ
found that Diaz had a mild limitation in concentrating,
persisting, or maintaining pace. (Tr. 1543). Dr. Nordstrom
noted that Diaz's ability to sustain concentration
appeared to be adequate. (Tr. 1543). Finally, the ALJ
concluded that Diaz had a mild limitation in adapting or
managing herself. (Tr. 1543). The ALJ determined that because
Diaz's medically determinable mental impairments caused
no more than mild limitations in any of the functional areas,
they were non-severe. (Tr. 1543).
three, the ALJ concluded that Diaz did not have an impairment
or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled
the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 1544). Specifically,
the ALJ found that the medical evidence did not meet or
medically equal Listings 1.04A and 14.10B. (Tr. 1544).
consideration of the entire record, the ALJ then assessed
Diaz's residual ...